Suzanne’s Law would raise penalties for assaults and abductions on school grounds

Gazette file photo
Sen. Jim Tedisco is hopeful for the future of Suzanne’s Law, which he first introduced in 1999. The law would increase penalties for assaults and abductions on schools and college campuses, and would warn would-be attackers of the increased penalties. The bill is named for Suzanne Lyall, a UAlbany student who went missing from the campus in 1998 and has not been found since.

Majority sponsorship in both houses gives supporters hope; but Assembly unlikely to act on final day of session

A bill to increase penalties for violent crimes on school campuses has less than a day left to pass in the Assembly, following nine legislative sessions that failed to grant it a floor vote in that house. The bill (S.2881/A.6582), known as “Suzanne’s Law,” has long been a priority for its sponsor, Sen. James Tedisco, R-Glenville, who will most likely reintroduce it next year if it fails.

Suzanne’s Law would issue higher penalties for certain crimes, including physical and sexual assault, rape, and kidnapping, when committed or attempted on — or within 1,000 feet of — every daycare facility, school, and college campus in New York.

Suzanne Lyall

The bill is named for Suzanne Lyall, a UAlbany student who went missing from the campus in 1998 and has not been found since. Her parents, Mary Lyall and the late Doug Lyall, have initiated and campaigned for missing-person aid and policy ever since. In a press release following the bill’s passage in the Senate, Mary Lyall called on the Assembly to bring the bill to the floor.’

Tedisco first introduced the bill as an assemblyman in 1999 and has reintroduced it every year since, although this session is the first time he has brought it to the Senate floor. The bill was previously sponsored by former senator Joe Bruno between 1999 and 2007, but it failed to find a Senate sponsor for the next four sessions.

“The bill was absent because of frustration,” said Tedisco. “After not seeing anything happening in the Assembly, nobody wanted to bother with it. The difference this year is that we have two majority sponsors, one in the Senate and one in the Assembly.”

The bill’s sponsor in the Assembly is Fred Thiele, I-Sag Harbor, who caucuses with the house’s Democratic majority. Thiele’s name has appeared on the bill once before as a multi-sponsor in 1999.

The Senate has passed the bill every time it has appeared there. In the Assembly, though, it has never reached a floor vote or made it out of the Codes Committee, which Tedisco referred to as “the dead end” for unwanted legislation.

Tedisco’s media liaison, Adam Kramer, said that the senator hopes the bill’s passage in the Senate will pressure the Assembly to take action.

Sponsors say this bill would send a message, literally, to would-be attackers that penalties for committing assault or abductions on school grounds would result in stricter penalties and longer prison sentences. Under the proposed law, signs would be posted in and around a school zone identifying it as an “assault and abduction free school zone.” The law, if enacted, would take effect on September 1.

The Assembly has not scheduled a floor vote for the bill today.